Reading is the foundation for academic success. According to the Iowa Department of Education Early Literacy Initiative, nearly 1 in 4 Iowa 3rd grade students is not proficient in reading. For that reason, early childhood education is a priority area for the Legacy Youth Alliance (LYA).

The Legacy Youth Alliance used their service project fund to purchase 125 copies of the book “Be Who You Were Meant To Be”

Allison Walker reads virtually to Cardinal Preschool students

by Lauren Grabois Fischer. “The book selection was also very intentional; it had to fulfill three criteria: be age-appropriate, available in both English and Spanish, and have a story that focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Amy Nossaman, Grants Program Manager at the Legacy Foundation.

Those 125 books were personalized with every preschool student’s name in the Cardinal School District and signed by all members of the Legacy Youth Alliance.

COVID restrictions prevented the LYA members from personally visiting each classroom to distribute the books and read them to each class. Instead, using an electronic version of the book and ZOOM web conferencing, LYA members read the book virtually. The books were delivered to the school ahead of the reading sessions to allow students to follow along using their own books.

Allison Walker, senior at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont and LYA member, said “Exposing children to the beauty of diversity is important to create an inclusive and accepting world. I loved having the opportunity to read to these kids to jump-start that change. It was great to see each of them celebrate and acknowledge each other’s differences.”

Mrs. Kern, four-year-old preschool teacher at Cardinal, said, “Our class loved having a virtual visitor! The kids followed along in their own individualized book while being read to via Zoom. Once our meeting was over, we read the book again as a class. They were so excited to take the book home and share it with their families!”